The consulting firm hired by the Lawrence school district will report its progress to the school board on Monday, including projections of declining enrollment and a possible budget scenario that would close three schools next year.
Back in August, the district hired RSP & Associates on a $120,000 contract. RSP is responsible for providing enrollment and facility analyses and recommendations during the district’s budget process for the 2023-24 school year. To work with RSP and provide public input during this process, the district organized the Futures Planning Committee — made up of district staff, students, parents and guardians as well as community members.
During the last few Futures Planning Committee meetings, the committee narrowed in on top priorities.
RSP shared during the most recent meeting on Dec. 14 a budget scenario the district is considering, which would include the closures of two elementary schools and one middle school. The proposed scenario did not name specific schools.
That scenario predicts savings between $7.15 million and $9.1 million. District administrators have said they must make $9 million worth of cuts to meet their biggest financial priority of achieving competitive wages for district staff next school year and onward.
RSP presented its enrollment projection results to the committee during the previous meeting on Nov. 30. According to RSP’s analysis, the district’s current student population, live births in the area and student migration trends, and the community’s development activity — including housing and estimated growth from the Panasonic plant coming to De Soto — are the “driving themes” of future enrollment.
The district’s enrollment is projected to steadily decrease, losing just more than 300 students within the next five years, or by 2027-28, according to RSP’s projections. Elementary school enrollments are forecasted to decrease by 20 students in five years; middle schools by 130 students; and high schools by 170 students.
Enrollment is the key metric in the district’s funding from the state, so, essentially, funding decreases as enrollment decreases. This is important to note as administrators are considering school closures for next year.
Also during the Nov. 30 meeting, RSP shared results of a survey meant to gain input from community members about which area of funding should see budget cuts. The majority of respondents — 59% – supported closing or consolidating school buildings, according to the results. However, some committee members were concerned about representation within the survey. Read more about the results at this link.
With RSP’s six-month process set to conclude in February, the Futures Planning Committee has three committee meetings remaining and two public input sessions to follow. The Futures Planning Committee is scheduled to meet next from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11.
View RSP’s presentation included in Monday’s meeting agenda at this link.
• Executive session: The school board meeting will start with a closed-door executive session in which Superintendent Anthony Lewis, Executive Director of Student Support and Special Education Kevin Harrell, and MVP Law attorney Greg Goheen will discuss “matters affecting a student(s),” according to the meeting agenda. The district previously hired Goheen to complete the Title IX review regarding the Lawrence high school gymnastics team in April of last year.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan 9 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Meetings are open to the public, livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel and broadcast on Midco channel 26. Full meeting agendas are available at this link.
To give public comment virtually during the board meeting, email PublicComment@usd497.org by 6 p.m. on the day of the meeting to sign up to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing.